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Steelers

Rooney against eliminating celebrations

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, March 26, 2004

Steelers chairman Dan Rooney remembers the 1970s with pride and fondness. He recalls, with a smile, how Hall of Fame wide receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth celebrated after a touchdown, jumping in the air and creating one of the first acrobatic high-fives.

Maybe it's not what Rooney did when he scored a touchdown for North Catholic High School in 1949, but he liked it, anyway.

"I could say the crazy stuff they did," he said. "But it was good. It added to the (game). People liked it. They saw it. It wasn't bad."

Now, the NFL competition committee wants to eliminate such activity and owners will vote next week at their meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., to allow game officials to penalize such celebrations with a 15-yard loss of yardage, in addition to a possible fine from league officials.

"I have problems with that," Rooney said. "I don't know that it's the biggest thing in this league that's a problem, to be making it like it's the biggest thing we are going to this meeting for.

"Everybody is talking about it, and it scares me. You get into an area that you don't belong."

Competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay, the general manager of the Atlanta Falcons, said the league wants to penalize "group celebrations, (for example) the five guys circling around, all falling to the ground at the same time."

He said more than 50 players were fined last year for such acts through a league by-law, but the new proposal will make it a part of the NFL rulebook.

"We have letters from high school and colleges saying, 'Throw flags,' " McKay said. "We thought they made a good point."

Rooney, however, believes it's not foolproof, and he cited the case of Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward, who was penalized and fined $5,000 last season for spiking the football after a touchdown in Seattle. Officials believed Ward was taunting Seahawks cornerback Ken Lucas, but Ward said he was directing the spike toward the Steelers bench as a rallying gesture.

"They said it was taunting," Rooney said. "It wasn't. It was an official. They are not perfect. They'll call something on you and you say this is the way it's supposed to work and it may not be how it works."

Rooney remains steadfastly against taunting and the use of extraneous objects in celebrations, such as Joe Horn's cell phone and Terrell Owens' Sharpie.

"That's terrible," he said.

Choreographed displays that remain within the bounds of good taste, however, don't bother him.

"I don't have a feeling one way or another," he said. "I don't think it's a terrible thing."

Rooney said he supports the committee's proposal to make replay review permanent and to give the coach an extra challenge if his first two are successful. He also said that he wouldn't be against giving back the challenge if the coach is right, something that Steelers coach Bill Cowher supports.

"Right now, people expect it," Rooney said, pointing out that it's become a part of the landscape that defines the game.

The only other twist he supports is making the replay assistant in the booth part of the crew.

"He should travel with them," Rooney said. "He should be talking to the referee, the same as everybody."

The NFL normally awards those jobs to retired officials who live near the cities where they work.

"I think the league likes it the way it is," he said.

He also said the competition committee voting against playoff expansion "was the best thing they ever did."

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